Kenya: Unicef, World Bank Team Up to Help New Mums, Children in West Pokot

Expectant women, nursing mothers and children below the age of two in West Pokot County will benefit from a nutrition improvement programme that was launched on Wednesday.

The project, Nutrition Improvement for Children through Cash and Health Education (NICHE), is funded by the World Bank through Unicef and implemented by Action for Hunger.

It aims to help in the fight against acute child malnutrition.

West Pokot is among counties with the highest malnutrition rates. Its highest stunting of 35.1 per cent is an improvement from 45.9 per cent, but is still more than the national level of 26 per cent, according to the 2014 demographic health report.

Households get a top-up of Sh500 on the normal Sh2,000 per target child under two and/or pregnant woman, up to a maximum of Sh1,000.

This supplements the regular national safety net programmes in households enrolled in government cash transfer programmes, including the elderly, orphans and vulnerable children, as well as people with disabilities.

NICHE was launched on Wednesday at Psigirio Health Centre and beneficiaries will get Sh2,500 every month.

The five-year project was supposed to last from 2019 to 2023 but it started in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It involves combining cash transfers and community empowerment, targeting vulnerable families who already receive cash through the government’s national safety net programme and include pregnant or breastfeeding women or children under two years through the Ministry of Public Service, Gender, Senior Citizens Affairs and Special Programmes.

Action for Hunger (ACF) health and nutrition coordinator Jemimah Khamadi said the programme seeks to eliminate acute malnutrition where children are too thin and short for their age.

“We are aiming to improve the well-being of children, from conception up until their second birthday – a period which is crucial for human development,” she said.

“It also includes intensive counselling on nutrition and health via an existing network of community health volunteers, covering issues such as the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for children under six months old, maternal nutrition and vitamin supplementation.”

The project targets 56,000 beneficiaries and will take place in the two sub-counties of West Pokot and North Pokot, with 5,800 direct beneficiaries.

Improve the health and nutrition

She said the programmes will be implemented through existing government structures of health, labor and social protection, agriculture and water and to address malnutrition.

“We shall be offering health and nutrition messages to improve nutrition at the community level,” she said.

West Pokot County, she said, continues to register poor health and nutrition outcomes, with about half of all children under five years being stunted and one in five children too thin.

The report on malnutrition in the county showed that the major causes of these poor indicators include high women’s workload, poor maternal infant and young child nutrition practices, and poor access to quality health services.

Ms Khamadi noted that the county has not relented in adopting measures to improve the health and nutrition of women and children through partnerships.

“The cash top-up will be accompanied by the provision of intense nutrition counselling to be done twice every month by our very own community health volunteers and community mother support groups working through community health services in the county department of health,” she said.

The project aims to promote optimal maternal, infant and young child nutrition practices through nutrition counselling and education to be delivered through a mix of interventions.

They include “baby-friendly community initiatives and social behaviour change communication. For the success of this project, there will be active engagement of West Pokot County and sub-county teams from the ministries of Health and Labour. Further, the national government will provide policy leadership and guidance,” she said.

“Unicef will provide technical support at the national and county levels while Action Against Hunger with funding from Unicef will support the implementation of baby-friendly community initiatives and all community-level activities.”

West Pokot Unicef coordinator Elizabeth Cherop noted that the programme targets 1,400 children, saying stunting is best addressed within the first 100 days of a child.

“We link mothers to community health workers on how to feed and breastfeed. We visit their homes two days a month and ensure children go to hospitals for growth monitoring,” she said.

She explained that the project is being undertaken in West Pokot, Turkana, Marsabit, Kilifi and Kitui counties, where the pilot project was done.

West Pokot director of children’s services, Phillip Wapopa, said that the county is number three in the rate of malnutrition and urged mothers to embrace giving the right food to their children.

Mr Wapopa said that they had registered 1,456 beneficiaries for the programme.

They also target men through local radio stations for behaviour change.

Gladys Chebetoi, a beneficiary in Tomkoukalya village, lauded the organisations and government for the project.

“My child, Joy Chepruri, is now eating like other Kenyans. It was hard to get lunch or supper. We have been taught how to cook, feed our children and do agriculture,” she said.


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Author : Nation

Publish date : 2021-10-01 05:38:23

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